Commercial Flat Roofing System and Snow: Common Misconceptions You Should Know

For a business owner, it’s imperative to keep your workplace safe and productive. The last thing you need is for problems such as leaks and other structural issues to affect operations especially if you’re in areas prone to snow where leaks and icicles can damage your roof.

In order to avoid future headaches and potentially costly decisions, it’s essential for building owners to have at least a little knowledge about its various types and the configurations of its materials and system. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s easy to confuse myths from facts.

A lot of people know that flat roofs are leaky, expensive, and an absolute nightmare for those in snowy environments, so many building owners avoid flat roofs. However, it’s possible that most of the “facts” that you know surrounding flat roofs are misconceptions. As you’ll see below, choosing a flat roof isn’t a terrible idea no matter what season you’re in.

Flat Roofs Can’t Support the Extra Snow Weight

This is an entirely valid concern especially since it’s been commonly known that snow has never been a flat roof’s friend. The thought behind this notion is that the weight and pressure from debris, snow, and storms will cause the roof to collapse. The snow on your roof can become dense enough to collapse on a structure. Traditional flat roofs, especially those in need for repair aren’t designed to deal with that sort of weight since it cannot rely on gravity to shift of any snow or ice as a pitched roof can.

So, there is a threshold for how much snow your roof can hold. Heavy snowfall isn’t uncommon in some places so be aware that the weight of it could cause severe damage to your roof and your building

However, flat roofs are now designed to handle these stresses. Flat roofs should be able to handle anything thrown in its way. Regardless of roof pitch, the location of the building, local snow load conditions, and the existing structure are all factors considered when determining the capacity of a roof system to support the additional weight of collecting and drifting loads of snow.

Flat Roofs are More Prone to Leaks

Leaks happen easily during winter because of the ice dams and icicles that form due to the rise and fall of the temperature. This cycle of thaw and re-freeze causes the formation of the ice to become so thick that it causes water to pool and enter the interior by running backward underneath shingles.

People avoid flat roofs because they believe it’s more susceptible to leakage during the winter season compared to other types of roofs. However, flat roofs aren’t the only one vulnerable to leaks. Even pitched roofs, hip roofs, and shed roofs can have leaks. It all depends on the design and installation. A flat roof can be as good, sometimes even better at handling weathering than a pitched roof.

An architect and a structural engineer often work together to develop the flat roof in a manner that would adequately support the load of snow. They kept your interior and belongings in mind when they’re designing and constructing the roof. They wouldn’t want to damage your stuff.

The key to keeping buildings dry under a flat roof is to be sure that snow and other precipitation drains freely and entirely off the roof. Having a well-designed drainage system will help prevent the possibility of leaks into a building.

Besides a proper drainage system, a properly pitched roof would also prevent the possibility of a leak into a building. If that’s the case, you might think that a flat roof would be terrible since as the name suggests, they’re flat.

But contrary to popular belief, flat roofs aren’t actually flat. They have a slight slope that allows it to shed water (in this case melted snow) which keeps the water and falling snow outside.

Maintaining a Flat Roof is an Absolute Nightmare

Winter can be destructive, especially on the roof. For a flat roof, if its built-in drains become filled with debris, the water from the snowmelt will pool on the surface of the roof until the water enters the building or the roof collapses on the structure.

Like any other roofs, a flat roof could be kept in a working condition during winter if proper maintenance such as clearing out clogs in the gutters and downspouts are practiced before the season begins to manage costs and prevent disasters. However, having drains and not having pitched sections makes it supposedly more difficult to maintain as it would require more attention.

Clearing debris from drains and scuppers on flat roofs is a straightforward task similar to any other roof design. Proper roofing guarantees that maintenance is minimized and that drains remain functional even when seasonal maintenance takes a backseat to a busy life.

Fahey Roofing Contractors can help you with necessary roof repairs and roof replacement. Check out our residential roof replacement services, residential roof repair services, or contact us at (304) 826-1333 to learn more.

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